Mexican drug cartels' presence may be increasing

Posted at: 12/28/2012 6:00 PM
Updated at: 12/28/2012 6:24 PM
By: Adam Camp, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Recent reports are showing Mexican drug cartels have been busy in New Mexico.

Just three weeks ago, authorities found two bodies, Gino Valdez and Mathew Maestas, in Hernandez, NM. The two men had multiple, execution-style gunshots to the head and their bodies had been torched.

Then last week two more bodies were found in Medanales just miles away from Hernandez. One of the victims, Tomas Sanchez, was a primary suspect on the Hernandez murders.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella said all of the deaths have a Mexican drug cartel connection. The Drug Enforcement Administration responded to the sheriff by saying that all heroin and methamphetamines dealing in the US is from Mexico, but the only way to confirm the cartel ordered the killings of any of these men is to find the suspects in the murders.

But the recent bloodshed has some people in Albuquerque concerned for their own safety.

"It is alarming, but I don't see it locally in my day-to-day doings, so it's not an immediate concern to me, but I think the state needs to look at," Susan Cook said.

"Well, I find that really terrifying. Because I never thought that it would come this far north, like from Mexico up to here," Nicole Strawn said.

But APD said over the last several months, they have not had any reports of drug cartels being invovled with crime in Albuquerque.

But these recent cartel connections are only part of a growing trend in the state.

In January, KOB's 4 On Your Side Team discovered former Albuquerque firefighter Steve Chavez had been arrested for drug smuggling and money laundering charges with the Mexican Sinaloa Drug Cartel, according to federal court documents.

And in June, Fernando Solis Garcia, an employee at the Ruidoso Downs Racetrack was arrested, and several horses at the track were seized, for helping to launder drug money for the Los Zetas drug cartel.

In every part of New Mexico, from south, central and north, cartel connections have been made.

"When you start hearing about it coming closer and closer, you start wondering how long is it going to be before somebody you know personally or yourself, your kids or your family, is hit by it," Jonathan Strawn said.